Monday, June 11, 2012

NJ Transit aims to keep citizens off the tracks

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Led by duo public service announcements spotlighting the deadly consequences resulting from poor choices made at railroad crossings, NJ Transit Board Chairman and New Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, NJ Transit Executive Director James Weinstein and members of the NJ Safety at Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee unveiled a new series of safety initiatives at separate events in Camden and Bergen counties.

Following the deaths of three teenagers in October of last year, Commissioner Simpson organized and convened the Railroad Crossings Leadership Oversight Committee; comprised of representatives from agencies, such as the Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Highway Administration, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NJ Department of Education, State Police, Motor Vehicle Commission and NJ Division of Highway Traffic Safety, NJ TRANSIT Police, NJDOT, NJ Transit and Operation Lifesaver.

"This committee has relentlessly pursued every available avenue to prevent fatalities on the rail system, through an approach we call ‘E-cubed'- Engineering, Enforcement and Education," said Commissioner Simpson. "Today, we are taking this approach to the next level, launching more aggressive enforcement, preparing to install new physical barriers and technological warning systems and airing a duo of blunt, no-nonsense public service announcements that crystallize the very impact wrought by poor choices at railroad crossings."

At the direction of Commissioner Simpson and the committee, NJDOT and NJ TRANSIT will be deploying Dynamic Message signs at high-risk grade-crossing locations, to remind pedestrians of the importance of obeying warning and safety devices. NJ Transit will soon be testing a new, "second train coming" warning sign at the Outwater Lane crossing in Garfield, adjacent to the new Plauderville rail station. This warning sign is slated to be operational by mid-July.

Further, NJ Transit will be piloting "gate skirts" at the Aberdeen-Matawan station, providing a second physical barrier to thwart trespassers who often "duck" under the crossing gates at this specific location. Aberdeen-Matawan is one of four stations of enforcement focus (including Walnut Street in Montclair, Convent Station in Morris Township and Radburn Station in Fair Lawn) with a high rate of trespasser activity; all of whom will be the subject of increased, visual police enforcement through this initiative.

At the direction of Commissioner Simpson, the committee was tasked with developing strategies in the areas of Engineering, Enforcement and Education in order to ramp up safety across the state's rail network, particularly in areas where trains travel through densely populated neighborhoods.

Immediate actions implemented included the implementation of the Trespasser Intrusion Program (T.I.P.), requiring locomotive engineers, train crew members and other field personnel to identify and report patterns of trespasser activity to enable law enforcement officials to respond appropriately. A new educational video entitled "It's Your Choice" was also created for use in the education program, which includes first-person testimony from impacted NJ Transit employees as well as surveillance footage taken from the four railroad crossings cited above for enforcement purposes.

Additional educational tactics implemented included the creation of a safety message, safety tips and a YouTube video for the njtransit.com home page; utilizing social media tactics to influence teens and young adults; issuing safety alerts via My Transit, which sends travel information directly to customers' emails or web-enabled mobile devices and creating a safety bumper sticker to place on all NJ TRANSIT non-revenue vehicles. With today's release of the new public service announcements, all of the original proposed educational tactics have been successfully implemented.

The new public service announcements can be viewed on NJ TRANSIT's website at njtransit.com/safety.

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